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(A D20 Campaign)

My brother and one of our co-workers and I were talking about the latest Final Fantasy game over lunch. Naturally, the conversation led us back to old D’n’D stories – the entire Final Fantasy series borrows heavily from early roleplaying terminology.

Feeling a bit nostalgic, I decided it would be fun to run another D’nD game… sort of. There were some things I didn’t like about the original system, and Second Edition did a poor job of fixing them. It added some flexibility, but at the cost of game balance and simplicity. Third Edition, on the other hand, did a really good job of fixing most of my initial complaints while hanging on to the things that made D’n’D appealing in the first place. I haven’t examined the 3.5 rules too closely, but they seem to have done more of the same.

I toyed with the sort of games I like to play, and decided to make this campaign work more the way they do. For one thing, the players would be given a lot of power, but they wouldn’t start with much. That required a couple of changes from the Dungeons and Dragons rules:

  1. Nobody rolls dice to determine their hit points – ever. All characters will automatically gain maximum HP for their chosen class when they level up. Of course, the same will apply to monsters: 1 HD enemies will have 8 hp, etc.
  2. Nobody rolls for ability scores, either. Everybody starts with a score of 10 in each ability. They get 32 points to add to those scores – which makes it possible, in theory, to have base ability scores of 18, 18, 18, 18, 17, and 3 if the players are so inclined. This will be power-gaming, but mainly it will give the characters some starting advantages (probably including extra hit points).
  3. Experience points are null and void. Players/Characters will be rewarded with increased levels, at the GM’s whim. (Basically, whenever they accomplish something useful.) That should allow a much faster advancement rate.
  4. No prestige classes will be allowed.
  5. The traditional D’n’D races won’t exist in this world. I will also be making up my own monster races.
  6. No specific deities. Clerics still serve supernatural forces, but the nature of those forces is unclear. That also means that all clerics fall under the default clerical template.
  7. I’m ignoring that damned useless and confusing Alignment system. Develop a real character, neh?

Okay, so what sort of scenario fits in with this? To be honest, I don’t remember whether the scenario inspired the system changes or vice versa. In any case, what I settled on was this:

The world was originally populated by humans and natural animals. Humans remain one of the major races, but various empires and sects experimented with magical ‘improvements’ over the centuries. Some mingled their blood with animals, others with creatures summoned from higher or lower planes. In a relatively short time, they became individuated races, incapable of breeding with True Men. Because of this, there are no specific ‘racial’ languages: only regional dialects.

I wanted the players to learn about this world as their characters did, so none of them were ‘born’ here. All characters will begin with a case of amnesia; as they explore the world, they will slowly regain their memories and a sense of the history and layout of the land. Their hosts have summoned them to help with certain problems that the usual forces (guards, armies, etc.) are too busy to handle. So, all players will begin with the following introduction:

“You wake to find yourself in bed. The room around you is well furnished, but the style is unfamiliar to you – foreign. You have vague memories of struggling against cold darkness. The darkness was broken apart by a searing light, and a drum beat shook the world. The thumping faded slowly, steadily, until you weren’t aware of it anymore. (Maybe they were dreams. You aren’t sure.)

Friendly faces appeared around you, crowding you, helping you. You didn’t recognize any of them, and none of them were like you. Then, suddenly, you could understand what they were saying. They wanted you to walk. They wanted you to come with them. They wanted you to choose your equipment. They looked up to you, respected you, maybe even feared you… You thought maybe you should be used to that, but you weren’t sure why.

Your movements were stiff at first, but with time and practice they became natural again. Speech was even stranger, and as you adjusted to it you realized that whatever these people spoke, it wasn’t a language you knew. They had done something to make you understand it.

You didn’t know why you chose the things you did. They were items – weapons, equipment, armor – that felt natural in your hands. Things you had known… when? Before, whenever that was. Before whatever had happened. You took the things they gave you, and you practiced until using them felt normal again. You rested…

Now someone is knocking on your door.”

Classes, Feats, and Equipment